Monday, June 24, 2013

Smoke and Mirrors

So as you all know (and if you didn’t, then you will now) I work for the United States Postal Service. For someone looking to tell humorous stories this job has provided me with plenty of blog-fodder over the past couple of years.

Today was no exception.

Here’s the story:

If you’ve ever seen me you may have noticed that I am white. Not merely Caucasian, but white. The kind of white that has a chance of bursting into flame every time it wanders into direct sunlight. The kind of white that can burn purple and then have it peel painfully off to reveal fresh, white, un-tanned flesh beneath.

True story. I’ve done it.

I am far too melanin-challenged to work outside every day as I do without using amounts of sunscreen that may well qualify for the term ‘massive’.

Massive amounts.

So this morning after I loaded my route into my mail truck I pulled out my trusty squeeze bottle of SPF 100 sunscreen. Flannel has an SPF rating of 50. Lead has a 75. With 100 I can actually walk on the sun without harm. Okay, that’s not true, but it damn well should be. What is true is that I was standing in the parking lot smearing myself with a white substance with the consistency of toothpaste.

Crest. With brightening formula.

I spread it on my face and neck, then both arms, making sure to rub it in well. Since I have to cover my whole head I have to be doubly careful to get it all rubbed in well. Many' s the time I've done half my route or more before finding out I had a glob of white too hanging off an earlobe like some 'What About Mary' wannabe. So I stood there rubbing and rubbing until my head and arms were all set, then I moved on to my legs. I squirted out a double-handful of the thick, white goo and started smearing it over my shins and thighs... then I stopped and stared.

"What the #$%&?"

The white crap that I'd just smeared across my skin didn't look white. I mean, it did in my hands, but not where I’d rubbed it on my shins. Where it was on my shins (and, I now saw, my thighs) it looked to be a sort of bluish purple. A very obvious bluish purple.

"Oh my God!"

I pretty much flung myself at my vehicle, nearly slamming my head into the window glass as I tried to get a look at my face in the wing mirror.

My regular old white face stared back, no hint of the odd tinge so evident on my legs. I breathed a sigh of relief. I'm no movie star, and I'll take all the help I can get. Not being covered all over with something that would have made me look like some sort of a Dark Smurf, that counts as help in my book.

I looked down at my weirdly colored legs again. Looked more closely. It looked almost as if my legs were covered with something that the lotion was picking up as I spread it on... but what? I wracked my brain trying to come up with something, but it was still early, and it wasn’t like I’d really done anything yet, except...

I stood staring down at my discolored shins, having one of those ‘Aha!’ moments.

One of the first things we do in the morning at the Post Office, after we punch in at the time-clock and start getting paid to breathe, is to go out and do an inspection of our vehicles, including making sure the damn things start. Seriously, one very sucky way to start your day is to go load your whole route into your truck and then find out the thing won’t start.

I’ve done it. The suckage is huge. The suckage was epic the day I had to move my whole route to a different truck because mine refused to start, only to have the borrowed vehicle run out of gas half-way through my day.


Anyway, that means that at roughly 8:05 in the morning there are about 30 mail trucks starting and revving in the lot behind the post office. If you live next to your local post office then my apologies to you and I suggest you maybe move somewhere it would be more quiet for you in the mornings.  Like right next to an airport, or maybe a bell factory.

So I clocked in this morning and collected my truck key from the pegboard, then strolled out into the rear lot to add my own particular brand of motor noise to the cacophony. My route’s designated spot is all the way at the back of the lot, so I usually just walk between the double row of trucks that get to park closer to the building, much as anyone does as they cut across a parking lot. I started to do just that when I looked ahead and saw one of my coworkers, DG, starting his truck.
DG was parked nose-to-nose with the truck I was standing next to, and he was revving his engine like he was at the starting line at NASCAR. The downside of this for the neighbors was the tremendous amount of noise this created. The downside for me was the tremendous amount of thick black exhaust that vomited forth from his tailpipe. As he pinned the gas pedal and left it
there I kept waiting for the exhaust to clear but it never happened. Black smoke poured out of his truck, heavy and low-floating, in an unending stream. A traitorous breeze pushed the noxious mess toward me, filling the space between the trucks with oily smoke so thick it roiled fluidly as it moved toward me in a too-solid mass.

“Nope,” I said. “Don’t think so.”

I took a quick left, skirting the back of several vehicles intending to move over several spaces before trying to cross toward my own truck again, avoiding the nasty fug entirely. I passed the tail of one truck and started past the second when that driver, as yet unseen by me, twisted the key and hit the gas.

Just as I was passing his tailpipe.

Hot black smoke exploded out against my legs in a concentrated stream, like Satan’s own blow dryer. The crap coming out at me was so thick I could feel tiny, individual spicules of stuff striking my skin with stinging force; the world’s nastiest hail storm.

I gave a yelp worthy of a dog who just discovered the folly of trying to lift a leg against an electric fence and high-stepped it out of the blast zone. The driver was apologetic — he just hadn’t seen me — and I’d moved fast, but apparently not fast enough. Though all morning my legs had looked just fine to me, they had been, in truth,
scummed to a uniform gray, like painted-on nylons.


A dozen blackened handi-wipes later my legs were almost clean. The surface was clean, but every pore between my shorts and socks had become a clearly defined black dot. My legs in this state looked suspiciously like a photo negative of a starry night sky. Very negative. While the night sky is a thing of beauty, my massively polluted legs were simply disturbing.

So the bad news is I walked around for the day with massively polluted legs. The good news is I’m not one of those people who panics about things like this, worrying about what that crap being on and in my skin is going to do to me.

Besides, those eyes that grew out of my automotively poisoned kneecaps are going to come in awfully handy when I need to watch my step. I wish I’d had those while I was playing soccer when I was younger.

Oh well...

Talk to you later!

....and this week's video is an oldie but a goodie. It's one of my favorite things to have found on YouTube, the artist known as "Snubbie" playing an instrument he built out of PVC pipe at a school. He tried out for the Blue Man Group when he was just seventeen years old. They told him to go to college... and then come back.

Check this out!

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